On 31st January 2020, Britain left the European Union, following the referendum in 2016. Brexit is perhaps the most divisive political issue of our modern day and has received strong criticism but also much endorsement. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes reports.
The Leave side of the Brexit argument ran their campaign on a promise of Britain taking back control of our own country. This encompasses regularity freedom, cutting of ‘EU red tape’, and freedom of movement. According to the government, 76 benefits can already be accredited to Brexit.
The Remain side meanwhile stated that it would be disastrous for trade, industry and the general standing of the United Kingdom.
Even though Brexit is not widely blamed as the only cause for souring inflation, poor economic growth, labour shortages, and a lack of trade deals, many believe it has played a factor. Students, in addition to the wider public, have wide-ranging views on this issue.
The majority of industries across the U.K. have felt significant changes due to Brexit, particularly those which rely heavily on international trade
The majority of industries across the U.K. have felt significant changes due to Brexit, particularly those which rely heavily on international trade. Other impacts include a lack of migrant workers, a lack of European supplies, and losing out on the EU’s free trade arrangements with external countries.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has stated that Brexit has meant that GDP is predicted to drop by 4% over 15 years from 2016. In addition to this is the worry of a lack of stability in U.K. markets.
There are also continuing issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In terms of student opinion, the views were mixed. The students quoted are from across the political spectrum.
One left-leaning student commented that whilst he believes that the EU is a “pretty ugly organisation”, essentially run by the French and German, with smaller states told to “get in line or else”, the government are not handling Brexit in the “correct way”. Until this Conservative government are replaced, Brexit only means “the death of most of our employment protections, and isolation on the world stage”.
He eluded to the divisive nature of Brexit within the Conservative party itself and stated that “half of them don’t really think it’s a good idea
He eluded to the divisive nature of Brexit within the Conservative party itself and stated that “half of them don’t really think it’s a good idea.” Nevertheless, the student did see how Brexit could have been a positive move, handled properly, as part of a “national plan to revitalise UK industry through state aid and more progressive taxation which is blocked by the requirements of the single market.”
Criticism of the government is rife, with Dan Arthur saying that Brexit was a decision that “I stand by absolutely”, but “has been a complete shambles from the Tory party”, who have “exacerbate(d) the problems we had”. Dan endorsed a “Norway style deal”. “We had the opportunity to close our borders, but the government decided to increase net migration to 1 million a year. Companies are feeling a hit, and the government has done nothing with the opportunities of Brexit to ditch red tape and bureaucracy, instead leaving them to flounder and printing billions of pounds, causing rapid inflation.”
In summary, Dan described Brexit as “a brilliant idea, ruined by morons.”
Another issue that has been highlighted in relation to Brexit is travel. Kit Sinclair, a Modern Languages student who did a year abroad, spending time in Paris, commented on this. She described the process of travelling to mainland Europe as “convoluted” and “expensive” and disclosed that many students are being advised not to seek abroad work opportunities in Spain because of “the logistical challenges.” The “significant extra costs involved with the visa process” has led to inaccessibility for students.
Kit finished by describing how many Europeans she spoke to showed “amusement at how badly it’s been going for us.”
“It feels like the country I am from one day decided they didn’t want to associate with the country I now call home and left me in an awkward middle ground.”
A University of Nottingham student, whose family has lived in Luxembourg for ten years, also spoke to us. She returns there when not at University. She said that she must prove she lives in Luxembourg every time she goes home. “A massive change and not a nice one.” “It feels like the country I am from one day decided they didn’t want to associate with the country I now call home and it has left me in an awkward middle ground.”
It frustrates this student how so much of the original rhetoric around Brexit focused on “the refugee crisis and the want to reduce migration into the country”, commenting that she had seen how much Luxembourg thrives on migration. Finally, she felt that the original promised benefits of Brexit have not happened, especially in relation to the NHS.
The President of the Conservative Society, Daniel Dieppe, was more endorsing of Brexit as a whole, describing it as “the largest democratic mandate this country has ever had”. He highlighted the benefits Brexit has bought us so far, from “the Vaccine rollout” to getting rid of the tampon tax.
Daniel pointed to the issue of the majority of MPs voting for Remain, and thinks that the government “needs to utilise the freedoms being out of the EU gives us, reach out to nations outside of Europe and bring in new deals for the country.”
The general feeling amongst students seems to range from distaste, to agreeing with the concept, but not necessarily how the government has implemented it.
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